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Summer movie preview

This is going to shock you, but superheroes, aliens, and secret agents play a big part in the lineup of this year's blockbuster sequels, reboots, and relaunches



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Moonrise Kingdom (June 15 in Atlanta). Instead of films made for boys, Wes Anderson makes one about them with his first live-action movie since The Darjeeling Limited. Set in the 1960s, Moonrise Kingdom looks like Rushmore Goes to Camp, as a boy scout and teenage girl run away from camp and home, respectively. Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and Bruce Willis join Anderson regulars such as Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman. Hopefully, Anderson's wit will keep his twee impulses in check, as was the case with his previous film, Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Rock of Ages (June 15). This jukebox musical tribute to 1980s hair-metal and glam became an unlikely Broadway hit, and an even more unlikely motion picture. Unified by a love story about two young people (Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta) who work at a music venue called the Bourbon Room and dream of showbiz success, Rock of Ages makes musical numbers from hits by Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Poison, and Starship. It looks kind of fun when Catherine Zeta Jones leads a group of censorious mothers in "We're Not Gonna Take It," but can Tom Cruise pull off the role of sexy rock star Stacee Jaxx? Hairspray's Adam Shankman directs the film, which might be more entertaining as a misguided disaster than a competent musical. Alec Baldwin, Mary J. Blige, and Russell Brand wear sizeable wigs in supporting roles.

Brave (June 22). Pixar may have the most respected brand in Hollywood, but a criticism that's stuck to the computer-animation studio is its lack of female protagonists. Pixar redresses this critique with Brave, a fairy-tale adventure set in medieval Scotland. "Boardwalk Empire's" Kelly Macdonald voices Merida, a rebellious princess with archery skills that rival Katniss Everdeen and whose opposition to tradition throws the kingdom into chaos. Mark Andrews, who helmed some of Pixar's funniest shorts, replaced the film's co-writer and original director Brenda Chapman. The voice cast also features Billy Connolly, Craig Ferguson, Emma Thompson, and, of course, John Ratzenberger.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (June 22). With an asteroid on the verge of colliding with the Earth, a soft-spoken guy (Steve Carell) and his British neighbor (Keira Knightley) go in search of his childhood sweetheart. Lorene Scafaria's follow-up film to Nick & Nora and the Infinite Playlist features supporting players such as Patton Oswalt, Rob Corddry, Melanie Lynskey, and Derek Luke.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (Atlanta TBA). Speaking of the end of the world, this talked-about drama from the Sundance Film Festival sounds unlike any film you've ever seen. A 6-year-old girl named Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) leaves her father's home in the Delta to seek her lost mother, even though melting polar ice caps not only cause waters to rise but also release prehistoric animals called aurochs. It sounds like a blend of Southern Gothic and magic realism.

Magic Mike (June 29). Why has director Stephen Soderbergh made a movie about a male stripper? My theory is that after his film Haywire challenged action movie gender roles with a brawling female lead, he wanted to make a film about a male sex object for a similar switcheroo. The plot looks a little like Footloose as Channing Tatum plays Magic Mike, the superbuff star of bachelorette parties, who contemplates a more dignified life of designing furniture and a committed relationship with a young woman (Lauren Horn). Matthew McConaughey plays a self-satirizing role as a former stripper turned club owner.

The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3). Five years after 2007's Spider-Man 3, Columbia Pictures reboots the arachno-franchise. The Social Network's Andrew Garfield now takes on the role of Peter Parker as a New York high schooler who becomes blessed/cursed with spider-powers. Emma Stone plays love interest Gwen Stacy, and Rhys Ifans takes on the role of Curt Connors, aka the Lizard, a brilliant scientist with a Jekyll-and-Hyde problem. While director Marc Webb's last name certainly suits the project, his only previous feature film was the stylish but too-cute rom-com (500) Days of Summer, so we'll have to see if he's up for the superheroic set pieces.

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